The tree grape is a slow-growing succulent with a huge swollen
trunk (caudiciform). These plants occur in Namibia where they are
exposed to very dry and hot conditions. Wild
grapes have therefore evolved and adapted very well in order to
survive. The presence of white, drooping, papery pieces of bark
on the yellow green stems is very typical of this species. In summer
this helps to reflect away the sunlight in order to keep the plant
cool. The thick, fleshy stem and leaves act as water reservoirs
in times of drought. A fully grown plant can measure up to 2 m.
Leaves are large, shiny, ovate, fleshy and toothed and fall off
during the winter months. Flowers are inconspicuous, but the large
grape-like bunches of bright wine-coloured berries near the end
of summer make this succulent a true showpiece for container and
Growing Cyphostemma juttae
Cyphostemma juttae is a very sought-after plant for the
garden, as are other caudiciform plants such as baobabs, adeniums
and tylecodons. They make superb container or open garden subjects
in and around the garden, especially around swimming pools and courtyards.
Because this species grows mainly in the summer, plants must be
kept dry during the colder winter months. They are ideal accent
plants for a rockery, or may be planted in a large container on
a sunny protected patio.
plants fare best in a loamy or sandy soil where drainage is optimal.
Adding plenty of river sand and general compost will greatly improve
drainage in heavy clay soils. Soil quality can also be improved
dramatically by lightly working some bone meal into the soil. Although
smelly, the effect on soils is quite remarkable. As a rule of thumb,
use only organic products, such as those based on seaweed extract,
especially if plants are going to be fed on a regular basis. Organic
products won't burn or damage plants.
As with all succulents one must be careful not to over-water. These
plants can survive with very little water and too often plants die
as a result of too much water. If one lives in a very wet area,
it is best to rather keep plants in big containers where they can
be easily moved to a sheltered place. This also helps where severe
frost occurs as cypostemmas are not completely resistant to frost.
The seeds of Cyphostemma juttae can be sown in winter. (June
to August). Although they take a considerable time to germinate,
success is almost guaranteed. Propagation can also be undertaken
by means of cuttings. Cuttings or truncheons can be made in coarse
river sand. Again it is important to water with caution especially
when cuttings have rooted.
- BARKUIZEN, B.P. 1987. Succulents of southern Africa.
Purnell, Cape Town.
- JOFFE, P. 1993. The gardeners guide to South African plants.
Tafelberg, Cape Town.
Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden